I've been told by native speakers that the former refers to little dogs while the latter is for bigger dogs. I also have been told that the latter has a negative connotation. I'm wondering:

  1. how negative is the meaning of 一条狗?
  2. is one used by speakers of a certain age or from a certain region?
  • when 狗 is in the word of 热狗 (hot dog), you can not use 条。 you can either use 只 or 个。 probably 个 is better.
    – Laguna
    Jan 10, 2012 at 22:04

4 Answers 4


There's no negative connotation, at all.

条 and 只 are used interchangeably in today's Chinese, not just specific to a region. Long ago, 头(頭)were used as a quantifier for dogs or other farm animals. I suspect "head" was dropped because dogs do not have stocky builds as other animals(pigs, donkeys, bulls etc). Also "头" tends to associate "dumb animals" and dogs are perceived as intelligent.

条 in most cases is used to quantify something that's slender, e.g. 一条路(road), 一条河(river),一条虫(worm).

I say 一只狗 because it seems to make more sense considering others animals of simliar size and stature also use 只. e.g. 一只猫,一只狐狸 etc. But this is just a personal preference.

  • 条 and 只 are interchangeable for 狗, bug not for any other example you give in the answer. (Oh, 一只虫 seems to be possible)
    – fefe
    Dec 27, 2011 at 1:44
  • @fefe yes in the context of the question, they're interchangeable. Now I wonder where 一條好漢 came from...
    – Jin
    Dec 27, 2011 at 3:40
  • @fefe I don't think 一只虫 and 一只狗 are used often. Rather, 一只小狗 and 一条狗 make more sense.
    – gonnastop
    Mar 19, 2012 at 5:01
  • So it is correct to say 一条狗 for a dog that is not at all slender?
    – Colin
    Jul 18, 2016 at 4:42

I'm afraid I cannot agree with you (or with the native speakers who told you so).

The expressions don't have the differences mentioned in your posts. To me they are equivalent. I prefer "条" though, for no reason.


In most of context, those two just exchangeable. 只 and 条 is measure word, sometimes 只 means 'little' and 条 means 'long' and maybe 'big'. for some person,esp. girls, 'little' hint 'lovable'.


Probably you can find the negative meaning of 一条狗 from 周星驰 (Stephen Chow)'s movie 《大话西游之仙履奇缘》:


That person looks strange, he looks like a dog.



You see that person? He looks like a dog.

"一条狗" here indicates they thought that person is a "poor guy" rather than "a dog".

But don't use this if you're not familiar with the people you're talking to!

In most cases, we just make fun of our friend or our self that we use "一条狗" to refer to some difficult situation, and have no negative connotation at all, for example:


I'm working at Shanghai, and I get paid 20,000 yuan each month, and live here is not better than a dog's life.



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